Ah, more photos for you!
I was in Korea for just under a week, mostly in Seoul staying with a friend from high school, but we also traveled out of the capital city and into a smaller city called Yeosu along the coast, and from there took a boat to a small island, Sado, to spend the night and check out tiny island life in Korea.
Waiting for the boat. Boats make the trip between a string of small islands and Yeosu, a couple times per day. Takes those weekly grocery shopping trips to a new level, eh?
Inside the boat. Dan and I sat in the part of the boat with seats, but the front half had bamboo mats and a cubby to store your shoes, and the women who occupied this space sat on the floor, traditional style, or, on the early morning boat, some of them lay down to rest. Although as you can imagine, they spent so much time gossiping with one another that it wasn't really possible to rest!
You are looking at the total number of houses on the island of Sado, I kid you not. It was incredibly peaceful and quite beautiful. Dan and I each had a New Yorker to read, and by 9:00 we were both out cold. There's something really comfortable about traveling with somebody you've known that long, you know? Like, you don't have to try to make sure the other person is entertained, if you feel like lying down at 8:30 and drifting off to sleep, nobody's offended.
When planning this trip, I really wanted to see Korea and also parts of China I had never been to before, but I also wanted to take it easy and spend some time among nature, since I find I reflect and unwind best when amidst greenery, trees in particular. So I picked out a couple small towns in the western part of Guangxi province in China to visit. A Chinese acquaintance I made years ago on the road had said that visiting this string of tiny towns had been one of her favorite trips. It was just what I needed.
On their way home from school.
Some days I was up early and sightseeing and then came back for a nap. Other days I woke up and wrote for half the day, grabbed lunch, and then headed out for an afternoon hike or bicycle ride. One of the luxuries of traveling solo, just listening to whatever you feel like doing that day and going with it. I had no idea how I would take to being alone for two entire weeks, but I will honestly say that I loved almost every minute of it. I was lucky enough to make a couple friends, very funny, generous, interesting people. Seriously, I think I had the best luck on this trip!
Not sure if you can tell from the different scenery, but I visited 3 different small towns in Guangxi Province.
I sandwiched my time in rural China with trips to 2 large cities, Chengdu and Beijing, which I think was a smart way to mix things up. I have a friend from my China days who is in Beijing now, and spending Saturday afternoon and evening with her and her boyfriend was truly the best way to wrap up my trip. Beijing is a city quite close to my heart, and if I could have it my way I think I'd take a month sabbatical and just plop myself back into the city and take each day to reacquaint myself with just one different part of the city. Like when we met up, we headed down to the little neighborhood that specializes in tea and teapots. Who knew there was part of Beijing devoted entirely to tea?
What a trip! Truly, one of the best I have ever taken. Sometimes I close my eyes and reimagine myself back into a moment in the trip, that feeling of contentment and happiness, adventure and exploration, an entire day stretched out in front of me with no obligations and untold stories and laughter and scenes and people watching ...